Casey Caplowe: Smart Cities

The GOOD Creative Director Outlines Key Innovations for a Sustainable Urban Future

From the renaissance of public space to robotized recycling schemes, Casey Caplowe, co-founder and creative director of GOOD, reveals the big infrastructure ideas and localized innovations that are making cities smarter. “In a world where things too often don’t work, GOOD seeks a path that does,” says Caplowe, echoing the socially minded, Los Angeles-based media platform’s motto. Through infographics on the changing perceptions of the “American dream,” DIY tutorials for repurposing aluminum cans, and features on micro-insurance in Africa, GOOD's focus is always on community, and better ways for living in a world that, it is predicted, will see over 50% of the global population living in cities by 2050. “GOOD Ideas for Cities is a project that emerged from events where we have paired designers with urban leaders to see what new kinds of thinking and solutions may emerge,” says Caplowe. “Even if ideas are far-fetched, they always lead to provocative conversations about the places we live and how we might improve them, rather than just accepting the status quo.” Currently gearing up for the next GOOD Ideas for Cities event in Portland this February, Caplowe offers optimistic visions for reinventing public space.  

What is your definition of a "smart" city?  
The idea of a smart city relies on the application of new technologies, but it is about more than new gadgetry. It’s about cities that work better across all systems. How we create smart cities can be incredibly complex but can also start with small innovations. Cities offer a playground to experiment with how we can make life better on this planet. 

Traffic congestion in Los Angeles is one problem GOOD has tried to tackle recently. Is there a solution there?
Angelenos are endlessly enthralled by the traffic we deal with in our sprawling city. Right now 87% of people in LA commute by car, and the remainder is split into public transportation and biking. We staged an event to illustrate that with just 3% of car drivers shifting over to bikes and public transit, the amount of time lost to traffic for all commuters would be reduce by 15%. Roads literally free up when people get out of their cars.

What do you consider the pinnacle of the reinvention of public space? 
The High Line in New York City is a masterpiece. It’s not just the physical beauty and strength in design, but also the way it saved, and in turn preserved, a historic component of the city. Before it was a decaying elevated railway that no one ever saw, and now it's one of the greatest new public spaces, and one that other cities are trying to emulate. 

Is there a recycling scheme out there that we should all be taking notes from?
The BigBelly Solar: these curbside, solar-powered trash compactors and recycling bins wirelessly communicate with the municipal trash system to let it know when they are full and need to be picked up. Between the compacting of the trash, and the notifications to the waste pickup services, these bins reduce the miles driven by waste removal trucks. 

What would your ideal American city look like?
I would mix the varied landscape and nearby escapes offered by Los Angeles with the energy of New York, set within the intimate human-scaled charm of a smaller city like a Providence or Portland, then dash in some outsider-irreverent spirit from Austin, and drop in the view from San Francisco…

What defines civic mindedness today?
We started GOOD back in 2006 with a cover offering a “DIY personal manifesto” that read: “_________ like you give a damn.” That still holds as my view of civic mindedness. It’s about using your own skills and interests, whether you are an artist, businessman, lawyer, doctor, whatever, and applying them toward what it is you give a damn about.

Discover Casey Caplowe's 7 Wonders of the Urbanized World here.

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Conversations (1)

  • cslaz
    Turning not smart suburban sprawl, into Smart Urban space is a huge challenge.
    • Posted By cslaz
    • February 02, 2012 at 9:44AM
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